ASSUMPTION — The Assumption City Council did not have a lot to discuss in its October 6 general session, but it was heated at times.
Mayor Roger Cox had an appointment in mind to fill a vacancy in Ward 2. In contrast with common courtesy, there was no publication or notice of the vacated aldermanic position, which became effective on Saturday, Sept. 11. While it is not a requirement, it is common practice to keep the community informed on municipal matters.
The source of heated debate came during that line of business, as several people expressed their interest in filling the vacancy. They also expressed concerns that the public was not made aware of the vacancy.
Cox appeared to make numerous excuses as to why none of the other candidates were in consideration. This was prior to his filing his own resignation as mayor, six months after he was elected to a full four-year term. While Cox stated that the public should have known, the resignation letter of Ward 2 alderwoman Barb Coughlin was not presented until the exact day of the replacement’s appointment.
Kirk Allen and John Kraft from Edgar County Watchdogs were present in the gallery as a result of a tip that Cox had cleared out his office and was resigning. Allen inquired if the appointee was some form of lame-duck appointment on his way out. The question was posed as the public was not informed of the vacancy for 25 days from the date of resignation up to the meeting, as well as the blatant ignorance of numerous people stepping up to fill the vacated seat.
“It’s none of your business,” Cox responded to Allen’s inquiry.
The vote to appoint Kandy Smith to fill the vacated position ended in a tie due to an alderman voting present. Cox made the tiebreaker vote.
New treasurer appointed
The issues posed in filling the aldermanic vacancy cannot be said in relation to the city treasurer vacancy.
The position vacancy was advertised, applications filed in to City Hall, and interviews were conducted. Compared to the latter, the process to fill the city treasurer vacancy was considerably more transparent. The process did result in a new treasurer, Angel Palmer, being hired.
City Council reshuffling to come
A special meeting took place on Tuesday, Oct. 12 to take nominations to fill the mayoral vacancy created by Cox’s resignation following the meeting.
Alderman Derek Page stated that Cox wanted him to serve the remainder of his term as mayor. However, due to current state election laws, he can serve until the 2023 consolidated election. As the remainder of the term has more than two years remaining, if Page intends to serve the full term, he would have to circulate petitions to retain that role through 2025 and win.
As Page is likely to take over as interim mayor until then, this will leave a vacancy in Ward 1, which will also have similar circumstances.
“Even though there are divisions, we are all one awesome group of aldermen who care about Assumption,” Page stated about his colleagues on the council in a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday, Oct. 7. “We will get things done.”
Page also mentioned the council’s unanimous care of many projects in the community, such as the ongoing water and wastewater project. Other projects mentioned were that of economic development and public safety. Another could very well easily be that of revitalization plans for Illinois Street Park.
Alderwoman Melody Stuart shared similar sentiments as well.
“We very much look forward to moving forward into a place of transparency and continued improvements,” Stuart wrote in a post sharing Page’s remarks. “We would love to bring your fresh ideas to the table.”
Both Page and Stuart were in mutual agreement that the October 6 meeting was not an easy one, but also stated that not very many meetings were that way.
Stuart also stated something that the council has been very adamant about: transparency.
“Some things we can agree on are the desperate need for transparency [and] having our questions answered,” Stuart stated.
She also mentioned other items of mutual agreement, such as improving upon the foundation of small-town government and striving to make Assumption a city to be proud of.
Other business items with action taken during the meeting include:
• Setting a Trunk or Treat for Saturday, Oct. 30 from 4 p.m to 6 p.m. The event will take place along Walnut Street.
• Setting trick or treating for Saturday, Oct. 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be no trick or treating in Assumption on Sunday, Oct. 31 for Halloween.
• Approval of an ordinance relating to littering. They would also update the existing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ordinance to be more compliant with evolving state FOIA laws.
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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.